by Andy Jones

10 ways to rock without a band

These NKS-ready VSTs will get you all of the sound
– with none of the drama

Having a band is a lot of fun, but what if there’s no one around to have a band with? Maybe you already have specific song ideas and structures in mind, but your bandmates just aren’t up for it? Or simply, you just want to convert existing song ideas into a band arrangement before practising live. If that’s the case, then these digital instruments are for you.

Below is a round-up of some of the best rock guitar instruments, virtual drum kits and guitar effects out there – all NKS ready, so they can be played, refined and tweaked with ease by way of your KOMPLETE or MASCHINE hardware. Combining authentic rock sound with the advantages of digital music production.

Strum GS-2 by Applied Acoustic Systems

“Playing guitar on a keyboard has never been so easy!” So boasts the blurb behind GS-2, but they might just be right as this title features pretty much everything you need for virtual guitar playing. There’s auto-chord recognition, integrated strumming, a MIDI riff library, amps and effects plus models of both electric and acoustic guitars – and lots of them. The 200-plus presets contain loads of clean, crunchy and distorted electrics, and there are over 700 MIDI loops to get you in a composing mood. GS-2 even recreates the more complicated guitarist moves – palm muting, scratching, sliding and more – making it one of the best guitar experiences (without a guitar) that there is.

Check it out here.

Shreddage 3 Stratus by Impact Soundworks

Shreddage is the cover-all title for a range of guitar and bass instruments from Impact Soundworks. Version 3 is the recently-released update that includes an entirely new S3 engine designed to work more fluidly within the Kontakt ecosystem, and also comes with more realistic virtual hand moves for totally authentic fret work. Shreddage 3 Stratus is the first title to take advantage of the S3 engine and is great for rock, funk, metal and blues. It also adds a strumming option for fast and slow playing, 30 effects, three pickups and loads of articulations. Impact Soundworks is also offering an attractive new licensing scheme that makes dipping into the rest of the company’s range a lot more affordable.

Check it out here.

Session Guitarist Electric Sunburst by Native Instruments

We couldn’t create a virtual band without including the latest from Native Instruments. It includes 16GB of pristine samples, all recorded from a guitar classic over two pick-up positions with single notes, strums, articulations and chords. Choose from more than 150 patterns to play different riffs in an instant from a single note press. An Auto-Chord option continues the instant song-creation theme, again generating more complex results from a single key. However, Electric Sunburst really comes into its rock zone when you explore the fabulous suite of effects which you can blend with five amp models and ten cabinets to deliver a wide variety of expressive and electric tones.

Check it out here.

Virtual Guitarist IRON by Ujam Instruments

When something says it can provide ‘hard and roaring power chords to offer up to the gods of rock’ all within the confine of your DAW, you have to sit up and take notice – those rock gods need serving, after all. The best part is that Virtual Guitarist IRON has been designed with all levels of producer in mind, so a relatively straightforward GUI offers guitar and amp types to switch between, and effects to dial in straight away. Perhaps its greatest strength though, is the collection of 1,000 unique sampled phrases spread over 100 different styles. The focus is very much on the power chord but there is versatility in this beast too.

Check out here.

Studio Drummer by Native Instruments

There are a lot of Native Instruments Komplete drum titles to choose from and your rock needs can be served by many of them. Studio Drummer is a great all-rounder, though, with a quite incredible 3,300 patterns to choose from so that even the most inexperienced beat tapper can get drumming. You get three top quality drum kits – a Pearl Masters Premium Maple, a Yamaha Maple Custom Absolute and Sonor SQ2 Drum System – all kitted out with the best snares and cymbals, providing great ingredients at the instrument’s core. Then you simply choose the pattern that works with your track, add variations and fills, and your beats are sorted. Studio Drummer is clearly designed to replace your drummer with software and does that job almost too well!

Check it out here.

The Blasting Room by Room Sound

The Blasting Room is a 4,000-square-foot studio based in Colorado that has recorded countless bands over the last 20 years. This instrument is all about capturing great drum sounds and drum playing in that quality environment, so the focus is on a multitude of microphones and their positions, and the recording of no less than 25 pieces of drum kit. The attention to detail is second to none and results in 22,000 samples that can be used in any genre, but the focus is definitely on great rock sounds. There’s plenty to get you composing beats too, including MIDI files covering a range of styles, effects and a 16-channel mixer.

Check it out here.

MASCHINE Kit Bundle by The Loop Loft

The Loop Loft’s MASCHINE Kits are designed to be used with NI’s finest beat-making hardware and each one provides a different set of beats, kits and loops. There are dozens on offer but this bundle takes the strain out of choosing the best as you get pretty much all of them – a total of 35 different titles – at a massive 80% saving. It’s not just rock that is covered – although you do get the rather brilliant Indie Rock Drums 1 and 2 – as you get everything from funk to indie, cinematic to blues. Whatever styles you play or program, then, this bundle will easily fulfil your MASCHINE needs.

Check it out here.

Guitar Rig 5 Pro by Native Instruments

Perhaps the ultimate way to create a rock sound is with Native Instruments entire rig of guitar effects, amps and cabinets, suitably entitled Guitar Rig. This has been the standard of virtual guitar effects for many years and features a whopping 17 amps, 27 cabinets and 54 effects. The effects are broken down into fuzz, distortion and overdrive units; reverbs and delays; modulation and filters; and multi-effects – plenty to add to any kind of sound, guitar or otherwise. You even get a choice of microphones and positions when ‘mic’ing up’ your guitar and bass amps. We would say it, but there really is no other collection of guitar effects with this kind of power and flexibility.

Check it out here.

Vintage Amp Room by Softube

Straightforward and easy to use, this simulates three classic guitar amps, each with different but highly-authentic sounds. As well as sounding great the software is worth the asking price for teaching you how microphone positioning affects the resulting sound, and you’ll consequently find yourself experimenting with all sorts of recording scenarios. Softube also does a number of other NKS-ready plug-ins, and guitarists will love effects like the Fix Phaser ($99) and Fix Flanger/Doubler combo ($149).

Check here for more info.

GTR-3 by Waves

Most of Waves’s plug-ins are now NKS compatible so you really can enjoy the ultimate hardware/software experience, and many of them are featured in this huge bundle of guitar effects. It includes over 30 Amps, 30 Cabs and 25 Stomps with many based on classic builds from Fender, Vox, Mesa/Boogie and Marshall. Currently on sale at the time of writing this is a bit of a steal at $39, so plug in and play.

Check out more here.

Looking for even more ways to rock without a band? Check out the best electric guitar VSTs from Native Instruments.

Learn more

Related articles